Social Security Nominee Rejected Because He Believes in Personal Accounts

Senator Max Baucus (D-MT), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, has announced he is refusing even to hold hearings on President Bush’s nominee, Andrew Biggs, to be the #2 official at the Social Security Administration.

Baucus is refusing to schedule a hearing not because Biggs is unqualified, but because Baucus doesn’t like his opinions. Biggs, you see, believes Social Security would be improved if the law were to be changed to allow Americans to put some of money they pay in Social Security taxes into personal retirement accounts they control (and can leave to their heirs after their deaths). Baucus wants the government to continue to control every dime, to continue taxing retirees to “give” them their own money back (with a lousy rate of return), and to keep all leftover funds, if any, when the retiree dies.

If you’re thinking that Biggs, had he been approved for the #2 spot, would have been unable to create personal retirement accounts, you’re right. Such a change would require an act of Congress. So Biggs essentially is being rejected for his personal views — views he couldn’t impose on anyone, had he gotten the job.

We wrote about this earlier here.

Addendum: Michael Tanner, writing about the Biggs nomination on the Cato Institute blog last November, put it very well:

Anyone who thinks that Democrats might be prepared to work in a bipartisan manner to reform Social Security should be quickly disabused by their disgraceful treatment of Andrew Biggs, President Bush’s nominee to be the next deputy administrator of the Social Security Administration. Biggs, who once worked for me, is a distinguished economist and expert on Social Security, who has earned the respect of people on all sides of the Social Security debate. During the time we worked together, he proved to be a rigorous analyst, who followed the numbers wherever they led, always choosing facts over ideology. No one ever criticized his character or the quality of his research.However, Biggs is an advocate of personal accounts. As a result, some Democrats in Congress, the New York Times, and the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare have embarked on a campaign to smear him and scuttle his nomination. Democrats appear to be saying that holding any opinion with which they disagree makes one unfit for public office. If that’s the course they plan to pursue in the next Congress, more than just hope for Social Security reform will go down the drain.

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